Daily Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has revealed a shocking case involving overzealous U.K. social workers, who two years ago abducted a happy and well-cared for little girl from her home, literally "destroying" the family in the process. According to Booker, the girls’ parents were arrested at the same time, apparently without cause.
Two years, four psychiatric evaluations, the intervention of their MP and 74 court hearings later, the parents still have not had custody of their daughter returned by the state and the child is being put up for adoption against their wishes.
In court documents obtained by Booker , the family’s GP testified that "the destruction of this once happy family is, in my opinion, evil."
The family’s nightmare started when the child’s father, named "Mr Smith" by Booker, who ran a dog breeding business from the family home in East Sussex, "docked" the tails of two newborn puppies – an act that, unbeknownst to Smith, had been declared illegal two days before. After being informed by the RSPCA that docking dogs tails was now illegal, Smith promised to obey the law from then on. Nevertheless, three days later RSPCA officers and 18 policemen outfitted in riot gear searched the house, leaving it in a state of chaos after they released the dogs from the kennels.
When Mr. and Mrs. Smith objected they were arrested in front of their daughter, who was then five years old. The officers had been erroneously tipped off that Mr. Smith had guns in the house. Mrs. Smith, who was three months pregnant, miscarried while being held in jail.
The child was later taken from the home by social workers who came to the house two hours after the raid. Since that time, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who have been described by neighbours and court witnesses as caring parents, have been fighting social workers for the return of their daughter.
Booker calls the incident "shocking" and "a barely comprehensible nightmare" and blames not only a network of social workers and police, but the "draconian" laws blocking publication of the facts that made it possible for this system to keep the affair out of the public eye. Booker reports that at the time of the arrest of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, two hundred local residents were ready to stage a protest but were deterred by rules ostensibly meant to protect the children.
Booker called "alarming" the rules that allow the system "to shield itself from the world, through reporting restrictions which it claims are designed to protect the children but which too often end up by protecting only the system itself."
Throughout the two years of court hearings, the Smiths have been accused of sexual abuse of their daughter and they believe that "considerable pressure" has been placed on the child to "turn her against her parents."
Booker writes, "One particularly bizarre psychiatric report was compiled after only an hour-long interview with the little girl. When she said she had once choked on a lollipop, this was interpreted as signifying that she could possibly have ‘been forced to have oral sex with her father.’"
Last December, after Mr. Smith refused a fifth psychiatric examination, a judge ruled that the child would be put up for adoption. An appeals court judge ruled in July that the refusal to undergo still more psychiatric testing was an indication that the parents were putting their own emotional well being above that of their child, and allowed the adoption ruling to stand.
The Smiths’ MP, Charles Hendry (Wealden, Conservative), was so alarmed by the affair that he brought the matter to the attention of the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions on July 15th. He said that the child is now being considered for adoption "even though there is no suggestion that her well-being was under threat at home."
Hendry said that "too often these cases go through the courts in a manner that can do lasting damage to the child and that parents cannot ever hope to match the resources being allocated by the local authorities."
Hendry asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a meeting to discuss the issue and "ensure that the children’s interests will be paramount and that parents can be assured of a fair hearing."
Booker quotes Lord Justice Thorpe and Lord Justice Wall who criticised in a similar case the "apparently ruthless determination" of East Sussex social workers to obtain children for adoption. The justices wrote that in such cases it appears that "councils have a secret agenda to establish a high score of children they have placed for adoption."